Features

Turtle Tales: A Life of Immersion and Consequence

Kate Morgan-Olsen '02 Photo courtesy of Kate Morgan-Olsen

BRIAN SHOBE, Turtle Tales Columnist

What makes Beloiters unique? For Kate Morgan-Olsen’02, it is “The ability to think critically and analytically… and the willingness to immerse yourself in a project.”

When asked for an example, Kate tells the following story.

On Dec. 25, a group of volunteers from No More Deaths encountered a woman laying on the side of the road near the US-Mexico border. The woman had been attempting to cross the border with the help of a coyote (a human trafficker). Two days prior, the coyote had attacked, attempted to rape, and abandoned her, leaving her with broken ribs, a punctured lung, and a torn larynx. She was in such grave condition by the time they found her that she was medically evacuated to a Tucson hospital.

Without documentation of any kind, this woman needed an advocate, which is where Kate stepped in. Between visits to the woman in the hospital, Kate spoke with law enforcement investigating the case, dealt with Immigration and Naturalization Services (INS), and sought legal counsel from attorneys. One of these attorneys told Kate that the woman might have a shot at getting a U Visa—a visa for victims of violent crime that grants the recipient two years of residency, a work permit, eligibility to apply for legal status, and most importantly for this woman, the right to bring her children to the US. But it was a long shot; the attorney told her that U Visas were rare and that she would have to do all the legwork. To make the situation worse, Kate had no legal background and only had two weeks before the woman would be deported.

“So I said ‘sure, let’s do it,’ having no idea what this thing was. But I relied on the skill set I developed at Beloit and have carried with me—I just started doing the research. I did research online… I started contacting lawyers I knew and asking them some hard questions… and just started making a list of the things I needed to do: get affidavits from all the people who had contact with her, get written statements from a social worker and a psychologist, and get her personal statement. Then I started asking my community here for help in dividing up the work.”

Two weeks later, they submitted the U Visa petition, which froze the deportation order.

“That entire case demonstrates a lot of the skills that I learned at Beloit… I had no idea what I was doing, but I was completely immersed in it for two weeks, studying law, talking to lawyers, and completely outside of my comfort zone. It was really stressful, but so interesting. And I think that’s another thing that liberal arts kids do—even when things seem really tough and stressful and hard and outside something they have ever done before, they’re willing to really engage with the work.”

Kate Morgan-Olsen graduated in 2002 with a degree in Anthropology and Latin American Studies. She also played soccer, studied abroad, and lived in Voces Latinas. Kate now works as the volunteer coordinator for No More Deaths— a humanitarian aid organization that provides food, water, and medical support for individuals crossing the US/Mexico border. More info available at nomoredeaths.org.

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